Prince William has launched an admirable national poetry competition to mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War.

It also celebrates the creation of a new clinical rehabilitation centre for the Armed Forces. Named A Poem to Remember, the competition, inspired by the war poetry of the First World War, will seek to discover poetry “that reflects on humankind’s ability to triumph over adversity.”

The winning poem will be chosen by the public.

Meanwhile, today, we offer a fine example of  a contemporary war poem. It won Jim Waite of Perth first-equal prize in the 2010 McCash Competition for poetry in Scots, but its compassionate intensity stretches beyond regional idiom.


He streeches oot upon the Pullman seat

fower rattlin lager cans his ordnance noo.

Thae buits are storrie still fae hert-sair launds;

he streeks his een.

The wuman opposeet

finds hard tae thole the sicht o this

young sodger fresh fae scabbit crags.

She welcomes politeecians’ platitudes

and sangs o heroes: this is no the same.

She disnae ken, whit sichts thae een hae seen

or whit thae brakken finger nebs hae torn

fae Afghan herts.

Wi’oot her TV screen

tae sanitize, she’s wary o the sodger’s

closeness here, his sweit, the reek o beer,

the bluid and sandy terror o his dreams.


The wheels rin smoothly as the train sweeps north:

A rattle ower points and intae Perth.

The cairriage yerks, the fans fly skittling doon,

she tichtens bluidless lips.

The sodger fidges.

Ahint his lids whit scenes are playin noo?